Ararat Magistrates’ Court will close from December 29 to mid-2018 as part of upgrades to make the building more suitable for hearing family violence matters.
During that time, all court listings and registry services will be diverted to Stawell.
Magistrates’ Court of Victoria senior registrar for the Grampians region, Alyson Neilson, wrote letters this month to Ararat court stakeholders to advise them of the temporary closure for safety improvements.
“The safety of court users, especially people impacted by family violence, is being enhanced through a $490,000 upgrades program funded by the state government,” Ms Neilson wrote.
“The works will create a safe experience for people attending court by reducing opportunities for harm and intimidation, delivering on key recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
“The upgrades include the creation of a separate waiting area and a safe interview room for people impacted by family violence, screening in court to allow the visual separation of parties, security upgrades to the registry area and a revamp of public amenities to improve accessibility.”
The court house will also receive more secure door to staff areas and additional surveillance cameras.
All Ararat court operations will cease during the upgrade period, with affected parties urged to contact Stawell Magistrates’ Court for details on its takeover of Ararat’s caseload.
Crime Statistics Agency figures released in October showed Ararat Rural City had one of the highest rates of family violence incidents in western Victoria following a 12 per cent rise in the 12 months to July.
Ararat police saw 2499 family violence incidents per 100,000 people, the fourth-highest rate in western Victoria behind Mildura on 3212, Swan Hill on 2786 and Central Goldfields on 2623.
This month, Ripon MP Louise Staley said the region’s courts posed safety issues for family violence victims.
Ararat and Stawell regions might not receive a state government family violence safety hub until 2021.